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Remodeling Your Kitchen? Types, Layouts and More

June 10, 2016 12:43 am

Renovating your kitchen is one of the most valuable improvements you can make to your home—if done within a budget that fits the circumstances.

Generally, the price of a cost-effective kitchen remodel will be 10 to 15 percent of the overall value of the home, say the experts at Cornerstone Design and Remodel, a San Diego, Calif.-based firm. Most kitchen remodels, according to Cornerstone, fall into one of three categories:

Minor (Costing less than $15,000)
Intermediate (Costing around $40,000)
Luxury (Unlimited budget)

Minor remodels involve installing new appliances or countertops or giving the cabinets a cosmetic update. The expected return on investment, Cornerstone’s experts say, can be up to 98 percent.

Intermediate remodels fetch slightly less at resale than minor ones—up to 91 percent of the cost of the project, the experts at Cornerstone say. Intermediate projects might include installing brand new cabinetry and flooring.

Luxury remodeling projects tend to exceed their initial budget, in part due to the cost of high-end finishes, products and technology. While the final result will be appreciated by the current homeowner, a buyer may not be willing to pay for it come resale, so exercise caution, the Cornerstone experts say.

Some kitchen remodels, luxury or otherwise, also involve changing the structure or layout of the room. In this case, it is best to scale the expansion to match the rest of the house, according to Cornerstone. The most common layouts for kitchens are L-shape, U-shape and galley. L-shaped kitchens generally include an island in the design; U-shaped and galley kitchens are efficient workspaces, but galley kitchens can become congested if the flow of traffic through it is heavy.

However you decide to renovate your kitchen, keep in mind the next owner will want to enjoy as much as you will, the experts at Cornerstone add. Efficiency in the design will achieve just that.

Source: Cornerstone Design and Remodel

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Are You Ready for the Summer? Choosing a Camp for Your Children

June 9, 2016 12:43 am

Summer camp is a lot more than cookouts, crafts and sing-alongs. For many children, it’s a first taste of independence and an opportunity to learn new skills, expand social horizons and gain self-confidence.

Day camps are a great way to get your child ready for a longer, sleep-away experience—but when that time comes, it may be challenging for you to determine the best camp to send your child to.

Hundreds of summer camps are listed on the American Camp Association (ACA) website (acacamps.org), which offers these suggestions for narrowing your choice:

Start with Your Child’s Interests – Include your child in the search. If he or she likes performing, or has an interest in science or a particular sport, consider a camp with that focus. Consider, too, that he or she may prefer a camp that offers traditional programming with a variety of activities.

Consider Special Needs – Be sure the camp you choose can meet your child’s dietary or physical needs. If your child is 10 years old or younger, you may want to start with a one-week experience.

Choose the Right Locale – This can be especially important if you will be driving your child to and from camp or visiting during on Parents Day.

Do a Background Check – How long has the camp been operating? What percent of campers return to the camp each summer? Are references available from other parents? Is there an open house or information night you and your child can attend?

Remember the Budget… – …but don’t count your child out of desired but pricey options, because many camps offer financial aid.

Once you have narrowed your list of choices, camp personnel should be willing and available to answer questions you may have about transportation, insurance, physical exam requirements, optional expenses and more.

You can also call the ACA at 800-428-CAMP for additional information or recommendations.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Misconceptions About Composite Decking

June 9, 2016 12:43 am

(Family Features)—Composite decking has been an option for homeowners for over 20 years—yet misconceptions about it still exist. Decking and railing brand Trex Company and HGTV’s “Decked Out” stars Paul Lafrance and Kate Campbell debunk the most common composite myths below.

Myth #1: Composite decking looks unnatural.

“Composite decking has evolved tremendously since its beginnings more than 20 years ago,” says Campbell.

Products today mimic natural wood well, Campbell says, with a range of grains and finishes that replicate woods naturally found all over the world.

Myth #2: Every composite deck is manufactured from the same material.

“Since composite decking was invented in the early 1990s, the market has been flooded with competitive offerings varying widely in quality, aesthetics and value,” Lafrance says. “For my projects, I use what is categorized as 'high-performance' composite manufactured with an integrated, three-sided shell, or 'cap.' Capped boards feature an added layer of protection against severe weather, heavy foot traffic, fading, mold and staining.”

Myth #3: Composite decks do not need maintenance.

“Anything that sits outside in the elements for years on end is going to need some type of maintenance,” Campbell says. “When it comes to decking, the difference lies in how much upkeep is required.”

Natural wood decking requires regular sanding, sealing and/or staining, and can splinter, warp or rot, raising the potential for more costly maintenance measures; composite decking only requires a rinse twice each year, says Campbell.

Myth #4: Composite decking is costly.

“Over time, wood decking actually ends up being more expensive than composite,” Lafrance says. “Sure, the initial cost of pressure-treated lumber is less than wood alternatives, but since a deck is a long-term investment, it's important to consider the long-term costs, such as all the materials you'll need for seasonal stripping, staining, painting and sealing.

“Add to that the time and cost involved in repairing and replacing wooden deck boards that will inevitably warp and splinter over time—even if they are well-maintained. When you factor in the cost of ongoing maintenance required with a wood deck, a composite deck ends up paying for itself in the long run.”

Myth #5: Composite decking is not eco-friendly.

The opposite is true.

“Because it is made primarily from recycled content, composite decking is remarkably eco-friendly,” Campbell says.

There are several sustainable options available to homeowners, says Campbell. Consult with a composite decking manufacturer to learn how its products are produced with the planet in mind.

Source: Trex Company

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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7 Tips for a Healthier Home

June 9, 2016 12:43 am

A healthy home—one free of bacteria and pollutants—requires upkeep in several areas. Fortunately, many healthy home maintenance tasks are simple, and can be done in a matter of minutes.

“Small actions can make a big difference when it comes to creating a healthier home,” says Sarah Norman, director, Healthy Homes and Communities for NeighborWorks America.

What are these actions? Norman and NeighborWorks America outline principles of healthy homes:

A Clean Home – Vacuum your home with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) product regularly to keep dust from accumulating. Clean with products that are non-toxic, biodegradable and/or unscented.

A Maintained Home – Don’t let your home fall into disarray. Make minor repairs as soon as you are able, and check the structure and systems in the home periodically.

A Safe Home – Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors monthly to ensure they are in proper working order. If you have children, take steps to childproof the home. These might include locking up chemical-based products, installing cordless window treatments and covering wall outlets.

A Contaminant-Free Home – Have your home tested for radon. If it tests positive for above-safe levels, install a radon removal system. In addition, if your home was constructed prior to 1978, have a lead repair and removal specialist fix cracked or peeling paint.

A Pest-Free Home – Adopt “IPM” (Integrated Pest Management) strategies to keep pests from entering the home. These might include sealing cracks in the structure of the home and storing food in airtight containers.

A Dry Home – Inspect your home—the roof, gutters, and plumbing fixtures—for leaks regularly, and fix them as soon as you are able. Keep an eye on your basement for any signs of water. (You may need to re-grade the home’s foundation if the problem persists.)

A Well-Ventilated Home – Promote air circulation, particularly in the kitchen and bathrooms, with an efficient ventilation system. Be sure the system moves air outside of the home

Taking these steps will go a long way towards a healthier household for you and your loved ones. A healthy home, after all, is a happy home.

Source: NeighborWorks America

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Sun Safety: 3 Myths Debunked

June 9, 2016 12:43 am

For all the talk of the dangers of the sun, many of us fail to protect ourselves from one of the most common sun-caused conditions: sunburn.

Why haven’t we taken better precautions?

According to a recently released survey by The Merck Manuals, most sunbathers rely on misinformation—myths about sun protection that, when adhered to, can lead to potentially devastating consequences.

The Merck Manuals recently consulted with Dr. Karen McKoy, of the Lahey Clinic Medical Center’s Department of Dermatology, to disprove the most common misconceptions:

Misconception: “I need sunlight to get enough Vitamin D.”

Results from The Merck Manuals survey show 62 percent of respondents believe sun exposure is vital to maintaining healthy Vitamin D levels. While the sun does provide Vitamin D, the exposure is not worth the health risks, Dr. McKoy says. Seek out other sources of Vitamin D, whether through food or through a supplement.

Misconception: “I have on sunscreen with a high SPF, so my skin will be protected longer.”

Forty-four percent of survey respondents falsely believe a higher SPF will protect them from the sun for an extended period of time. Dr. McKoy advises reapplying sunscreen at least every two hours while outside, and to avoid the sun, if possible, between late morning and early afternoon.

Another similar misconception: higher SPF numbers equal higher protection. This is incorrect—an SPF 30 sunscreen, for example, bars 97 percent of the sun’s rays, and an SPF 15 sunscreen blocks just 4 percent less than that, even though the SPF 30 appears to be double the SPF 15.

Misconception: “If I’m covered up when swimming, I won’t get sunburn.”

Thirty percent of survey respondents believe a cotton T-shirt will provide sufficient protection from the sun while in water. A T-shirt does not prevent ultraviolet rays from reaching your skin while in water—and neither do baseball hats. For maximum protection in water, apply sunscreen, wear clothing with a tight weave and don a hat with a seven-centimeter brim, Dr. McKoy recommends.

One other, less common misconception of note: what we eat does impact how we react to the sun. Consuming foods like lemons, limes, carrots, celery and parsley can result in Lime Disease (formally called Phytophotodermatitis), which manifests as a rash that is exacerbated by sunlight.

Source: The Merck Manuals

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Eyeing a New Appliance? Look Over These Tips First!

June 9, 2016 12:43 am

Are you getting ready to buy a major appliance, like a refrigerator, oven, dishwasher or dryer?

The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM.org) recommends the following tips:

Get the specs. Ask your dealer for specifications from several manufacturers offering the type of appliance you need. Compare available features, designs and capacities.

Know what you need now, and what you might need later. Decide which features you will really use, and what you might need down the line. Some appliances may include the option to add features later, like installing an icemaker in a refrigerator.

Set your price range. Compare prices in relation to what the appliance offers—price tends to increase as features are added.

Determine the size. Know what size and features you’ll need, so you can select a model with sufficient capacity. Check the space available to make sure your new appliance will fit, and make sure halls and doorways allow clearance for entry and installation.

Consider the care. Ask your dealer for the appliance use and care manual. Read it carefully before you buy to get a better idea of the maintenance required.

Ask about delivery. Ask the dealer about the cost of delivery and installation. (Are they included in the price?)

Find the fix. Make sure authorized factory service is available in your area for the brand you select.

Check the power. Make sure your house has adequate electrical service for the appliance.

Do some light reading. Read the warranty before finalizing your decision. Does the warranty cover the entire product? Only certain parts? Is labor included? How long does the warranty last?

The number of options you have may seem overwhelming, but adhering to these tips from the AHAM will help you purchase an appliance you’ll love for years to come.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Why Title Insurance Matters

June 9, 2016 12:43 am

An owner’s title insurance policy protects your property rights as a homeowner. Those purchasing a home should obtain a policy to insure against defects associated with the title of the home.

Owner’s title insurance is worthwhile because…

…it protects your investment.

A home is likely the largest investment you’ll make. Insuring it, says the American Land Title Association (ALTA), is like insuring any other valuable asset. Owner’s title insurance protects the rights of the property owner for as long as he or she (or heirs) owns the home.

…it mitigates your risk.

Issues inevitably arise for every homeowner, but title discrepancies shouldn’t be one of them. An owner’s title insurance policy will cover you in the event a title claim occurs. According to the ALTA, these include a tax lien against the property, an outstanding mortgage or a pending legal action related to the property.

…it goes beyond insurance and warranties.

Standard homeowner insurance policies, as well as home warranties, do not cover your rights as the owner of the property.

What’s more, owner’s title insurance policies are inexpensive, paid for through a one-time fee that equals approximately 0.5 percent of the purchase price of the home, the ALTA says.

Above all, an owner’s title insurance policy ensures peace of mind after purchase.

Source: ALTA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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National Rose Month: 5 Tips for Your Rose Garden

June 7, 2016 12:43 am

June is National Rose Month—the ideal time to plant a rose bush in your garden at home.

Rose bushes are not as challenging to cultivate as some have been led to believe. In fact, according to the “Redneck Rosarian” Chris VanCleave, caring for roses is very much like caring for any other plant.

“All plants need the right growing conditions to thrive, and roses are no different,” VanCleave says. “If you provide the right conditions and the right care, rose bushes will thrive in virtually any garden.”

VanCleave and the experts at Weeks Roses recommend:

Choosing a variety ideal for your garden – Avoid purchasing a rose bush based solely on its flowers. Consider other factors, like bloom time and disease resistance, before committing to a species.

Surveying the location before planting – Like any other plant, roses will not thrive if the location is less than ideal. Areas in your garden that receive six to eight hours of sunlight are best.

Pruning – Depending on the variety you purchase, your rose bush may or may not be a
“repeat bloomer”—that is, a plant that flowers throughout the growing season. If the bush is a repeat bloomer, prune it each time it flowers.

Watering wisely – Roses—and other plants, as well—can die from either too much or too little water. Generally, roses need to be watered once a week (twice at most), deeply so that the water reaches the roots.

Fertilizing sparingly – Over-fertilizing can be harmful to your roses. Use a combination of fertilizer and compost to avoid damaging the plant.

Visit WeeksRoses.com or your local garden center to view the rose varieties available now.

Source: Weeks Roses

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Household Products Wasting Your Money

June 7, 2016 12:43 am

Household products account for a portion of almost everyone’s shopping list. You can save money by making smart choices about the products and services you buy, says consumer editor Nikelle Murphy of CheatSheet.com—in fact, there are at least five common household products you can strike from your list:

1. Air Fresheners – Air fresheners are a multibillion-dollar industry. If you’re concerned about pet, cooking or other household odors, leave a bowl or two of baking soda on the counter, or sprinkle it into smelly shoes or on your carpet. Leave it in the bowls overnight, or vacuum it up after letting it sit for a while. The sodium bicarbonate in baking soda reacts with acidic odors and absorbs them.

2. Extended Warranties – Most manufacturers provide a warranty that covers any short-term issues you may encounter with their products—and retailers who sell extended warranties keep at least half of the proceeds. Except for a car, or perhaps a laptop, most extended warranties are a waste of money.

3. K-Cups and Coffee Pods – Coffee pods and K-Cups may be convenient when you want only one cup of coffee, but using them regularly will cost you five times more than one bag of home-brewable Starbucks coffee. They are also non-biodegradable, making them a poorer choice for the planet.

4. Paper Towels – Not only are paper towels harmful to the environment, but they are also far more costly than using rags or washcloths to clean up messes. Tear up fraying towels or an old jersey sheet and keep the rags handy. Toss them in the wash with the rest of the whites and save yourself a lot of cash.

5. Robotic Vacuum Cleaners – Robotic vacuum cleaners don’t save the cost of a regular vac, simply because they don’t do stairs, they lack the power of a traditional vac for heavy-duty cleaning, and they don’t navigate well around clutter. To boot, they’re expensive—between $300 and $900—and they require maintenance.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Investors: The Top Markets for Flips

June 7, 2016 12:43 am

2016: the year of the flip?

Sales of flipped single-family homes and condominiums shot up 20 percent from the quarter prior in the first quarter of this year, reaching the highest rate since the beginning of 2014 and grossing, on average, a profit of $58,250, according to a recently released RealtyTrac® report.

Markets that saw the highest share of flip activity in the first quarter, per the report, include:

• Memphis, Tenn.
• Clarksville, Tenn.
• Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, Fla.
• Fresno, Calif.
• Visalia-Porterville, Calif.
• Tampa, Fla.
• Las Vegas, Nev.
• Virginia Beach, Va.
• Miami, Fla.
• Jacksonville, Fla.

Markets that saw the highest average gross profit in the first quarter, per the report, include:
 
• East Stroudsburg, Pa.
• Reading, Pa.
• Pittsburgh, Pa.
• Flint, Mich.
• New Haven, Conn.
• Philadelphia, Pa.
• New Orleans, La.
• Cincinnati, Ohio
• Buffalo, N.Y.
• Cleveland, Ohio
• Jacksonville, Fla.
• Baltimore, Md.

A flip is defined in the report as “a property that is sold in an arms-length sale for the second time within a 12-month period based on publicly recorded sales deed data collected by RealtyTrac in more than 950 counties accounting for more than 80 percent of U.S. population.” The average gross profit, as defined in the report, is “the difference between the purchase price and the flipped price (not including rehab costs and other expenses incurred, which flipping veterans estimate typically run between 20 percent and 33 percent of the property’s after repair value).”

Source: RealtyTrac®

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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